Congress passes Medicare bill

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After much wrangling and negotiating, Congress has managed to pass a Medicare bill before the winter recess.

The House on Wednesday passed a bill (S.2499) that contains several Medicare and Medicaid provisions, some affecting long-term care facilities. Among them: an extension of the therapy caps exceptions process through June 30, 2008, and a freezing of the 75% Rule at its current 60% level. Also in the bill: Physicians will not receive a 10% Medicare reimbursement rate cut that was scheduled for 2008. Instead they will receive a 0.5% increase through June 30.

The bill, which the Senate passed on Tuesday, is considered a slimmed-down version of earlier legislation. Some observers feel the Senate hastily crafted the bill largely to head off the physician payment cuts.

Also this week, Congress passed a fiscal year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764). Both the Medicare bill and the appropriations bill were sent to President Bush for his signatures.